TOKYO, Japan — After a tough loss in the semifinal against China, Team USA women’s wheelchair basketball team won the bronze medal against Germany, with a great performance of the entire team. 

Team USA was not able to defend its gold medal, but in a team with nine first-time Paralympians, going home with a medal is an incredible result that can only help and motivate the young team to improve and grow. And the next Paralympics is only three years away. 

“It is absolutely an incredible feeling [winning the bronze medal] like everything from COVID to everything else,” said Lindsey Zurbrugg. “We didn’t know if the games are going to happen and to be able to come away with some hardware at my very first one, with an amazing squad of veterans and rookie players, it’s just an absolute thrill.”

Team USA hugs and applauds their effort post-match versus Germany in the Bronze Medal Match on September 4, 2021. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

The match started balanced between the two teams, scoring and leading the match. However, as time passed by in the first quarter, Team USA grew in intensity and ended the quarter on high note with a seven-point lead, that was crucial in the second and third quarters. 

In the second and third quarters, Germany outscored the United States. In the early minutes of the second quarter, Germany had a six-point run and closed the gap with the United States to only one point. However, this was not enough for Germany, Team USA reacted quickly and did not let Germany take over the lead of the match. 

Also, Germany played great defensively, and more than once it was possible to hear the Americans on the bench shouting the seconds left to shoot for their teammates on the floor. Germany stepped up in the two central quarters, but Team USA continued executing its plan.

The last quarter was a different story, more similar to the first one. Team USA found back the rhythm, increased the lead over Germany, securing the win a few moments earlier that when the clock stopped. 

“I kept getting little flickers of it probably with a minute and a half left. And when I saw or are the rest of the squad coming off the bench and on the court started, the realization started hitting and the excitement began,” Zurbrugg said. 

“It feels amazing to be bringing home a bronze medal,” said co-captain Darlene Hunter. 

“I know everybody wants the gold but like when you can’t get the gold, the next best thing is you know, and you can’t get an a gold medal game is to finish it and get the medal. And especially with nine rookies on our team, everybody doubted us. And we came in and just showed that we’re here.”

Natalie Schneider (#8) Takes the shot versus Germany in the Bronze Medal match on September 4, 2021. (PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Chin)

“It feels amazing. It feels so good. This game was so tough. And it’s been such a tough year. I’m just so so proud and so grateful to be taking the bronze medal home with us,” said co-captain Natalie Schneider.

It was good for Team USA to finish on a high note, with four player scoring double digits, considering the tough loss against China where many players underperformed.

“I’m really happy to have ended with such a great game today,” said Zurbrugg. 

“Honestly, the unwavering confidence that my teammates have in me that I think I can attribute to my success, even when there is off day and in any aspect of the game, they would always be able to pick each other up, pick me up and anybody up at any given time. This seems like a family.”

Looking to the future, the players said they are looking forward to go back home to their families and friends and celebrate with them. 

Natalie Schneider and Courtnet Ryan embrace following the win over Germany in the Bronze Medal match on September 4, 2021. (PHOTO CRDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

“You know, the only thing more special right now would be to have our families here. And I think that’s the sad part about this. We know like we’re about to go and check our phones, and they’re going to be blown up with everybody from back home,” Hunter said. 

“I hope my girls learn to just keep pursuing their dreams and find something they’re really passionate about,” Schneider sadi. “And work really hard at it and do what they love and and see how it pays off and just I just want them to learn to work hard and go after their dreams.”

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